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The Side Effects of Chemotherapy on the Digestive System

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Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells which uncontrollably replace normal healthy cells. The aim of treatment with chemotherapy is to destroy these mutated cells. Inevitably, normal healthy cells are destroyed. One of the fastest dividing cell groups in the human body is the cells which comprise the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Subsequently,loss of appetite, sore mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation are commonly experienced side effects of chemotherapy. Good nutrition and hydration are essential for the reproduction of normal cells.

Loss of appetite, a sore mouth, and nausea can challenge the cancer patient. Drinking at least eight glass of water each day is very important. Fruit juices can be alternated with water. Supplemental nutritional drinks are a good source of nutrition when one is unable to tolerate solid foods. Here is a recipe from “Eating Well Through Cancer” for a quick and flavorful smoothie:

Peach Weight Gain Shake

12 ounce can vanilla energy drink supplement
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
15 ounce can sliced peaches in syrup, drained
Pour supplement, extract, and peaches into a blender. Blend and chill, or serve over ice.

When experiencing nausea, smaller meals or nutritious snacks may be better tolerated than three full meals. Soft bland foods are more appealing than highly spiced foods. Here is a quick breakfast or anytime snack:

Applesauce Oatmeal

1 cup skim milk
3/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil. Add the oatmeal and reduce the heat. Cook for about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add the applesauce, brown sugar, and cinnamon, stirring until well mixed. Serve immediately.

Diarrhea can be a side effect of certain chemotherapy medications. At the onset, eliminate high fiber foods, raw vegetables and fruits, dairy products, gas producing foods, and carbonated beverages from your diet. Clear broth and plenty of fluids are recommended. Contact your physician if the diarrhea persists for more than a day.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.